Alan Hubbard

How many mums and dads, when their young kids ask "what can we do now?" as they run out of ideas and games to play during this enforced spell of self-isolation because of the terrifying coronavirus pandemic, respond in exasperation: "Use your imagination?"

Use their imagination? Well, why not, it's a pretty good thought for we adults too in these dire circumstances. 

Especially those of us who love boxing.

With no shows to go to and no live boxing on the box, what I am doing is re-running in my mind some of the fabulous fights I have seen over the years, such as the Rumble in the Jungle, the Thrilla in Manila and a host of others. 

I also find it entertainingly therapeutic, again in my own mind, to imagine some of the fantastic contests that might have been among boxers from different generations.

Dream fights, in other words, which certainly lift the gloom for a while.

Make-believe matches such as Joe Louis v Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler v Carlos Monzon (what middleweight mayhem that would've been), Rocky Marciano v Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis v George Foreman, Manny Pacquiao v Roberto Duran or Sugar Ray Robinson v Sugar Ray Leonard – with the winner meeting and beating Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Pairings that would make the mind boggle and the mouth water.

Muhammad Ali would feature in many boxing fans' fantasy matches ©Getty Images
Muhammad Ali would feature in many boxing fans' fantasy matches ©Getty Images

No sport is more steeped in nostalgia than the noble art. There are so many great fights and great fighters, past and present, to occupy our imagination. But you can play these mind games with many other sports too, comparing the best of old and new, including the Olympics and Paralympics.

Some say that the advantage would always be with the modern protagonists because of the advances in training, diet and sports psychology. I disagree. There are many instances when the old timers would have been superior on sheer ability alone. You need look no further than Muhammad Ali.

One example in football is Sir Alf Ramsey's England, the World Cup winners of 1966. I would back them to beat any team selected by subsequent managers up to and including the present day.

But back to boxing, my first love. While playing the fantasy fight game, other intriguing pairings that come to mind include Ali versus either of the Tysons. No disrespect to Iron Mike or the Gypsy Giant, but there is no doubt in my mind that there would be only one winner, and you can guess who that is.

Regular readers of this column will know that I am a committed Ali-phile. I believe that Ali at his peak, whose career I have followed since he first whupped Sonny Liston, would have bettered any heavyweight who ever lived. 

The proviso is that it would be the Ali who dismantled both Zora Folley and Cleveland Williams in 1967 before being forced into exile, aged 27.

That superb Ali, I am sure, would've been too good for either Tyson. But the one who would've given him the harder fight is Fury.

Why? The Greatest would have seen much of himself, style and personality-wise, in the current World Boxing Council heavyweight champion and it would have taken quite a few rounds to work him out. 

It would have seemed to him like he was shadow boxing. Then Ali's blistering hand speed and cutting edge punches – like those which disposed of both Liston and George Foreman – would have caught up with a brave but embattled Fury in the championship rounds. But it would've been a great fight.

As for Iron Mike, although Ali was not usually at his best against smaller men, I think Tyson was made for him. The main reason is that fearsome as he was, Mike was so easy to psyche and Ali would rile him mercilessly, taunting and teasing. 

It would not be long before a thin-skinned Tyson lost his rag, as he did against Evander Holyfield. An enraged, unsettled opponent was meat and drink to Ali. He would pick him off and bamboozle him with those slicing jabs, making him blink and become wild in every sense. 

Would Tyson Fury get the better of namesake Mike Tyson? ©Getty Images
Would Tyson Fury get the better of namesake Mike Tyson? ©Getty Images

If he wasn't disqualified again like he was against Holyfield for munching on an ear lobe, he would be stopped by the tenth with an arms-aloft Ali doing his soft-shoe shuffle in triumph.

At least, that's my view.

I have often wondered what the outcome would be had the Klitschko brothers fallen out and agreed to fight each other. My guess is that big Vitali would knock-out his younger and more vulnerable sibling Wladimir quite early on.

There is no limit to these "if only" match-ups. One all-British set-to I would love to have been ringside for is present-day heavyweight hopeful Daniel "Dynamite" Dubois and the nation's everlasting fistic treasure, Frank Bruno. What a beefcake battle of the biceps that would be, a real collision of might and muscle.

Another clash of the Titans I would love to have seen would be Tyson versus Tyson: Fury against his namesake.

What an incredible feat of matchmaking it would've been had fistic fate brought the two Tysons together.

I have done so in my own mind. The scene is set for this make-believe match – a packed Madison Square Garden in New York.

Pre-fight speculation had centered on whether the ridiculously smaller Mike Tyson, just 5ft 10in, could cut the giant Fury, 6ft 9in, down to size or whether the similarly unbeaten Brit would be too big and too elusive for the brutal finisher from Brooklyn.

For the purposes of this theoretical punch-up, both fighters would be at their peak – the 22-year-old Mike Tyson who blasted out Michael Spinks and Larry Holmes in double quick time and the 31-year-old Fury who had skillfully bewitched Wladimir Klitschko and surgically dismantled Deontay Wilder.

The ever innovative Fury would zoom into the ring seated on a throne hung from a trip wire. Tyson would follow on foot. Never one for flamboyant ring walks he would already be stripped to the waist wearing plain black shorts, boxing boots without socks and a white towel slung over his shoulder.

The pair were called together by the American referee Mills Lane and the disparity in size, with the towering Fury just short of a foot taller than Tyson, would seem farcical, especially as Fury had a weight advantage of some three-and-a-half stones.

"Let's get it on!" snapped the diminutive lawyer Lane, a district judge, as they impassively touched gloves.

How would a peak Mike Tyson fare against the heavyweights of today? ©Getty Images
How would a peak Mike Tyson fare against the heavyweights of today? ©Getty Images

And get it on they would have done, with Fury keeping his distance, jabbing, dancing and neatly fending off the clubbing Tyson, aware that only fools rush in against a young and fresh opponent with such brute strength in his fists.

Fury's tactics would keep working, with him piling up the points and taking every round until the midway stage of the 12 rounder. Then an angry Tyson, looking bewildered and frustrated suddenly, got lucky with one of those savage hooks finally catching Fury flush on the jaw. The big fella fell backwards and lay on the canvas, looking up at the referee tolling the count. He rolled over onto his knees, rose at six and nodded to Lane that he was okay.

In the ninth and tenth Fury evidently had decided to keep out of harm's way, especially as blood was now seeping from a widening cut on his right eyebrow. How this had happened was obscure. It was certainly not a head-butt as Tyson was too small to even chew at Fury's ear in the clinches, as he was later to do against Holyfield.

In the final round the blows continued to thunder in with Fury obviously dazed but still bravely attempting to fight back when the referee jumped between them, waving his hands to signal that it was all over. There were just 30 seconds to go.

Fury protested, angrily remonstrating with him, but to no avail. Iron Mike had come from behind to win this epic battle of the Tysons.

Naturally, Fury demanded a rematch. 

Did it happen? In my imagination it certainly did, some three months later before an 80,000 crowd at Wembley Stadium with a revitalised Fury avenging his only defeat with a unanimous points decision over a Tyson who did not look as if he had trained for the return as thoroughly as he should.

So the Gypsy Giant was king of the ring again.

If only. Imagine that.

Doing so will certainly help pass the time and keep the brainbox ticking over. So stay indoors, keep safe, and perchance to dream…